I became a fan of Amy Winehouse’s music when I heard her sing, “What kind of fuckery is this?” in “Me and Mr. Jones.” “Rehab” didn’t do it for me — that ode to denial creeped me out from the first time I heard it — but “Mr. Jones” was flirty, funny, name-dropped Slick Rick and featured a doo-wop girl chorus. And the Dap-Kings were the backup band. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.
I heard the song before I saw Winehouse on anything other than a CD cover. When I first saw her on television, I immediately thought to myself, “Junkie.” I recognized the tats on the arms — the better to cover up the track marks. I was familiar with the too-skinny frame, the unfocused eyes and the shuffling gait. I’d seen those people miss gigs, end up in the back of police cars, try to con others out of money or possessions. I knew her story without really knowing a thing about her.
Junkies usually have a future that involves some combination of rehab, prison or the grave. Unfortunately, Winehouse experienced all three. She died today.
Winehouse had to be one of the oldest 27-year-olds in the world. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that she was going to make great music again unless she got clean, and she was just not going to get clean.
“Every junkie’s like a setting sun,” Neil Young once sang. With Winehouse’s death, I again am sadly reminded that he got that right.